Today is Thursday, April 12, the 103rd day of 2012. There are 263 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On April 12, 1862, during the Civil War, Union volunteers led by James J. Andrews stole a Confederate locomotive near Marietta, Ga., and headed toward Chattanooga, Tenn., on a mission to sabotage as much of the rail line as they could; the raiders were caught, and eight of them, Andrews included, were executed as spies. (The raid inspired the 1926 Buster Keaton silent comedy "The General.")
On this date:
In 1606, England's King James I decreed the design of the original Union Flag, which combined the flags of England and Scotland.
In 1811, fur traders employed by John Jacob Astor began building Fort Astoria in present-day Oregon.
In 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. (The Union troops holding the fort surrendered the following day.)
In 1877, the catcher's mask was first used in a baseball game by James Tyng of Harvard in a game against the Lynn Live Oaks.
In 1912, Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, died in Glen Echo, Md., at age 90.
In 1934, "Tender Is the Night," by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was first published in book form after being serialized in Scribner's Magazine.
In 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Ga., at age 63; he was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman.
In 1955, the Salk vaccine against polio was declared safe and effective.
In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly in space, orbiting the earth once before making a safe landing.
In 1981, the space shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral on its first test flight. Former world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis died in Las Vegas, Nev., at age 66.
In 1985, Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, became the first sitting member of Congress to fly in space as the shuttle Discovery lifted off.
In 1992, after five years in the making, Euro Disneyland opened in Marne-La-Vallee, France, amid controversy as French intellectuals bemoaned the invasion of American pop culture.
Ten years ago: Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law ignored growing demands for his resignation because of sex abuse allegations against priests that began in his archdiocese and spread across the country. (Law ended up resigning in December 2002.) Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to Middle East was marred by a suicide bombing in Jerusalem that claimed six victims; the White House put on hold Powell's meeting with Yasser Arafat scheduled for the next day (the meeting took place a day later). Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez resigned under pressure from the country's divided military (however, he was returned to office two days later).
Five years ago: A suicide bomber breached security in Iraq's parliament and blew himself up in the dining hall; a Sunni parliament member was killed. CBS fired Don Imus from his radio program for insulting the Rutgers women's basketball team on the air; in the evening, Imus met with team members at the New Jersey governor's mansion in Princeton (Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who was en route to that meeting, was seriously injured when his official vehicle crashed).
One year ago: Japan ranked its nuclear crisis at the highest possible severity on an international scale -- the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster -- even as it insisted radiation leaks were declining at its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant. The state of Ohio executed two-time murderer Clarence Carter for beating and stomping to death a fellow jail inmate. Booming cannons, plaintive period music and hushed crowds ushered in the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War during morning ceremonies in Charleston, S.C.
Today's Birthdays: Country singer Ned Miller is 87. Actress Jane Withers is 86. Opera singer Montserrat Caballe is 79. Playwright Alan Ayckbourn is 73. Jazz musician Herbie Hancock is 72. Actor Frank Bank ("Leave It to Beaver") is 70. Rock singer John Kay (Steppenwolf) is 68. Actor Ed O'Neill is 66. Author Tom Clancy is 65. Actor Dan Lauria is 65. Talk show host David Letterman is 65. Author Scott Turow is 63. Singer David Cassidy is 62. Actor-playwright Tom Noonan is 61. Rhythm-and-blues singer JD Nicholas (The Commodores) is 60. Singer Pat Travers is 58. Actor Andy Garcia is 56. Movie director Walter Salles is 56. Country singer Vince Gill is 55. Actress Suzzanne (cq) Douglas is 55. Rock musician Will Sergeant (Echo & the Bunnymen) is 54. Rock singer Art Alexakis (Everclear) is 50. Country singer Deryl Dodd is 48. Folk-pop singer Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) is 48. Actress Alicia Coppola is 44. Rock singer Nicholas Hexum (311) is 42. Actor Nicholas Brendon is 41. Actress Shannen Doherty is 41. Actress Marley Shelton is 38. Actress Sarah Jane Morris is 35. Actress Jordana Spiro is 35. Rock musician Guy Berryman (Coldplay) is 34. Actress Claire Danes is 33. Actress Jennifer Morrison is 33. Contemporary Christian musician Joe Rickard (Red) is 25. Rock singer-musician Brendon Urie (Panic! at the Disco) is 25. Actress Saoirse Ronan is 18.
Thought for Today: "The surest test of discipline is its absence." -- Clara Barton (1821-1912).